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How To Bid a Plumbing Job in 9 Steps (Free Template)

How To Bid a Plumbing Job in 9 Steps (Free Template)

Submitting bids on jobs is key to running a successful plumbing business. With these essential nine steps, you’ll learn how to create a takeoff, calculate costs and write a proper proposal for any plumbing job you want.

As a plumbing business owner, you know that the jobs you want won’t simply land in your lap. Part of your job is finding and securing work for yourself and your team.

So, how do you get hired for plumbing projects? You’ll have to submit a bid and beat out the competition. Check out our bid templates below to get started.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the bidding process or just need a quick refresh, you’re in the right place. Below, you’ll find our nine-step guide on how to bid on a plumbing job.

Bidding Basics


Bidding on a plumbing job is the process of putting together and submitting a proposal and price quote on a project.

Some plumbers might submit a bid to a large construction company to provide plumbing assistance for a commercial or residential development project. For others, bidding might involve responding to a request for a quote on an in-home repair or another smaller project.

Regardless of how big or small a project is, you’ll likely have to submit a formal proposal with a detailed and accurate quote for your services.

9 Steps for How To Bid on a Plumbing Project

While nine steps may feel daunting, bidding on a plumbing project doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Let’s break down each step so you know what to do before, during and after writing your proposal.


1. Gather Project Details

The very first step in any bidding process is gathering all the information and details you can find about the project. This step includes analyzing blueprints, speaking with the project owner and visiting the worksite to fully understand the project.

Questions that you could ask the project owner might include:

  • What is the scope of the project?
  • What is your budget?
  • What are the site conditions like?
  • What is the timeline of this project?
  • Are there any specific fixtures, equipment or products you want me to use?
  • How will you inspect the quality of my work?
  • Are there any subcontractors I will be expected to work with?

2. Create Quantity Takeoff

Creating a quantity takeoff is an essential first part of the bidding process. A takeoff is the estimated number and cost of materials required to complete a project. 

You can use takeoff software to help you with this process or do this manually in a spreadsheet.

To start a manual takeoff, create a spreadsheet with columns for material description, model number, unit of measurement, quantity, unit price and material price.

During this step of the bidding process, you’ll look at the blueprints and project details to determine what materials you’ll use. Ensure you know the abbreviations and symbols used in floor plans.

As you’re examining the blueprints, you can start filling out some of the essential information, such as the materials you’d need, the unit of measurement and the quantity. Let’s look at an example. You notice that part of the project needs 20 feet of copper pipes, and you know suppliers typically charge by the foot. So, you can write the following in your takeoff:

  • Material description: Copper pipes
  • Unit of measurement: Feet
  • Quantity: 20

Repeat this process until you have a full list of every material you’ll need to complete the project.

3. Find Reliable Suppliers

Once you have your quantity takeoff created and partially completed, you’ll need to contact the supplier that you’d like to buy your materials from. Consider reaching out to multiple suppliers to ensure you get the best deal. You also want to look for suppliers with a good reputation and will get you your materials on time if you secure the job.

Here are some tips for finding a great materials supplier: 

  • Ask others in the plumbing community which suppliers they prefer.
  • Read reviews online.
  • Double-check the quality of the materials.
  • Look for suppliers that have good after-sales service.
  • Establish a business relationship with the supplier.

4. Request and Evaluate Material Quotes

Once you’ve determined your suppliers, ask for quotes on the materials you need. Be specific about what you’ll use the material for, how much you’ll need and when you’ll need the materials.

When you receive your quotes, evaluate which supplier is giving you the best deal. Don’t be afraid to use multiple suppliers or see if there’s room for negotiation.

Once you’ve determined which materials you’d like to purchase and their prices, plug the information into your quantity takeoff to determine the total price. Going back to that copper piping example, let’s say you find a supplier to provide the copper pipes for three dollars per foot. You can then write down the following in your takeoff:

  • Model number: 12345678
  • Unit price: 3.00

Now you can find the total price of that material by using the following formula:

(Cost Per Unit)(Number of Units Needed) = Material Cost

Once you have all the information and total costs of each material, you can add all material costs to determine the total material cost.

5. Calculate Labor and Equipment Costs

Materials costs aren’t the only costs to be concerned with when you’re putting together your bid. You’ll also need to set your labor and equipment costs.

Do you charge for labor by the hour? If so, how many hours do you expect you’ll need for the project? And how much will that cost? Will you expect additional compensation if you have to work overtime on the project?

Alternatively, you may be willing to set a flat fee for your services no matter the hours you put in. What would that fee look like? In addition to labor costs, you may require specialized equipment that you’ll need to rent or purchase. If so, get quotes on equipment so you can factor in these costs when you submit your proposal.

6. Factor in Overhead Costs and Determine Profit Margin

When you’re determining the cost of your service, you can’t forget to estimate your overhead costs. Overhead costs are business expenses that aren’t directly related to the service you’re providing. For example, you would want to calculate how much you’ll need to spend on gas to get to the worksite throughout the project.

Other overhead costs related to the job might include:

  • Business equipment
  • Accommodations (if necessary)
  • Truck rentals
  • Waste management
  • Required licenses and permits

Once you’ve calculated your total materials, labor, equipment and overhead costs you’ll know how much the project will cost to complete. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t the price you will charge. You still need to factor in your profit margin.

A reasonable margin could land anywhere from 20 to 45% of the project’s cost. So if your total cost is $20,000 and you add a 25% margin, your profit on the project would be $5,000. You would then charge $25,000 to the project owner.

Of course, your profit margin varies depending on multiple factors, such as your plumbing specialty or the project location. You may want to reach out to other plumbers in your area to see what they charge for similar projects.

7. Write Proposal

Once you calculate all your costs, it’s time to write the proposal you’ll submit to the project owner. Here’s a basic breakdown of everything you’ll add to your proposal:

  • Cover page: This will include your company name and logo, your contact information, the title of the job you’re bidding for, the client’s name and date of proposal submission.
  • Executive summary: While this is the first page of your proposal, you may want to consider writing it last. Your executive summary will sum up the entire proposal into a few paragraphs by briefly explaining the scope, objectives, timeline and cost.
  • Introduction: Here, you will formally introduce yourself or your company. Talk about your mission, beliefs, values and more. Include your qualifications and expertise on the subject matter.
  • Scope of work: This section will include a detailed description of the work you will perform on the project, including services, materials and equipment.
  • Timeline: Your timeline section will give the project manager an idea of when certain tasks will start and end. Be sure to include when you’ll complete key milestones and deliverables.
  • Technical approach: This section is where you can detail how you stand out from the competition. Explain what innovative approaches you take to solve common problems.
  • Qualifications: Your qualifications section will include your experience and the certifications and licenses you hold. You may also include examples of previous work to prove your expertise.
  • Safety measures: Use this part of the proposal to go over the safety precautions you will use to reduce and eliminate risks at the job site.
  • Quality assurance: Here, you will provide information on how you can assure the quality of your work and give details on any warranties you may offer.
  • Cost breakdown and estimate: Remember all those costs you calculated before starting your proposal? You’ll put them here. Include your quantity takeoff, labor, equipment and overhead costs. Then, give a quote for how much you’d charge in total, including your profit margin. You can also include your expected payment schedule and terms here.
  • References: It’s always good to offer references to the project owner so they can contact past clients. You can also add testimonials and reviews if you have them.
  • Terms and conditions: This section is for any legalities you’ll need to include in your contract, such as contractual terms like dispute resolution, termination clauses, change orders and more. You should also include any insurance and liability information.
  • Signature page: This last page is a space for the project owner to sign and accept the bid if your proposal is accepted.


8. Submit Bid

Once the proposal is ready, you can submit the bid via mail, email or however the project owner prefers to receive it. Occasionally, the project owner might reach out to ask you specific questions about the bid to confirm your scope of work and costs. 

9. Follow Up With the Project Owner

Once the bid is submitted, you should follow up with the project owner to make yourself available for further discussion. It’s not uncommon for project owners to ask for clarifications or changes in your bid to better suit their needs, so it’s important to be prepared to offer flexibility or negotiate a few terms.

Bidding Software vs. Manual Bidding

Many plumbers and subcontractors will use bidding software to make this process smoother. While the software won’t write your proposal for you, it can help calculate costs, keep track of project wins, measure your performance and more.

Remember, there are plenty of bidding software programs available for different types of subcontractors, so purchase software suitable for plumbers. 

If you’re not interested in purchasing software or you work on smaller projects that won’t require such detailed bids, you can opt for a manual bidding process. In this case, you can keep all your cost calculations and other important documentation in a spreadsheet.

When to Bid on a Plumbing Job

When bidding on a plumbing job, you shouldn’t waste your time and resources bidding on jobs that aren’t right for you.

Always ask yourself these questions before beginning the bidding process: 

  • Do I currently have the resources needed to complete this project?
  • Do I have the bandwidth to complete this project?
  • Am I qualified for this project?
  • Do I have expertise in this field of plumbing?
  • Will I need to hire more specialists if I win this project?
  • Does my schedule allow me to be readily available to the project owner?
  • Do I need more training before taking on this project?

Answering these questions will help you and your team determine if you are right for the job. Now that you know how to bid on a plumbing job, it’s time to get out there to see what is available. When the right job comes around, make sure you know where to go for equipment rentals.

At BigRentz, we have lifts, dumpsters, construction vehicles and more to help you get the job done. With our flexible day-to-day, weekly or monthly rentals, you can find what you need at the right price and at your convenience.

Browse and rent equipment from BigRentz today!


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